Unmagic was a rare and dangerous form of magic in the Emelanese Universe. It was the opposite of real magic, the absence of all things (light, sound, magic etc.), drawing normal magic to it and consuming it. Unmagic left traces, although they couldn't be easily detected. Unmagic left smears of sooty grey-black on substances touched by the it although they couldn't be easily detected. A person using unmagic was called an "unmage” and they, like all other things coming into contact with it, were eventually consumed by it. It is the rare enough that Lark did not bother to teach Sandry and her adopted siblings about it as she never imagined they’d actually come across it.
Unmagic use left traces on surfaces and people who came in contact with it that looked like grey-black sooty smears. Normal mages could not use unmagic or dispose of the traces left behind, although the sticky nature of the unmagic allowed it to be collected. Sandry used cloth rubbed with oils of sweet pea, patchouli, and ylang-yalng oils – all attractors, to collect the traces from their surroundings so it could be contained in spelled glass jars. Since the substance had no weight and could not be seen by those without magical sight, it was impossible to measure quantity. The touch of it to others is highly unpleasant and will raise goosebumps, feeling almost-greasy, almost-sticky, whisper-sense. Unmagic can be woven like cord or wool, as Sandry demonstrated when she made a net with it. This was a unique occurrence due to her ability to weave raw magic.
The nothingness of unmagic will eat normal magic. It was capable of eating its way through the layers of protective magic on House Toren’s Inner Keep, though it would take time – like acid eating through a bolt of cloth. To spell against unmagic one would have to use it, and then it would spread and eat all the other spells.
A normal mage could grip an unmage with all their worth and not only would the unmage walk away, they would consume their magic. It wanted to cling to things, to eat, and would rub off on people on contact. It wasn’t happy if it couldn’t eat and it would never stop trying to gain access to it. When Sandry attempted to create the unmagic net, the unmagic would crawl up her arms and try to ooze underneath her fingernails and into her skin. In an attempt to “eat” life it would fill the minds of those who touched it with nightmares, drowning them in hopelessness and despair.
Unmagic will attempt to draw “true magic” and their users to itself to eat. For example, if there is a piece of unmagic in an injury, the healer would be unable to heal the wound. The more magic a healer used the less it would help as the unmagic would eat the magic before it could heal.
Unmagic had to be purified from those who touched it and extreme care was taken to make sure captured smears could not contaminate other things. If a quantity was being moved, it was wrapped in cloth spelled with protection and cleanliness that were so thick a magic-seer would see spots in their vision. Ebony, elder, willow, and oak woods were used when contact was needed as they were all magically protective. Water baths were mixed with yarrow, agrimony, willow, and elder for cleansing and magical protection. Contaminated clothing would be burned after it was purified of unmagic, so dangerous was the risk that it would escape otherwise.
Effect on the Mage
Intensive use of unmagic corrupts the blood of the unmage or whoever it is used on. The blood eventually became so tainted it was hardly human anymore, making tracking spells that used blood useless. Eventually the unmage was driven mad and they were believed to have shorter than average lifespans. When one has magic, one has life, but the nothingness of unmagic was the absence of life. It was the absence of hope and feeling and the more it was used the greater its hold on the mage became.
The Unmage’s eyes will eventually darken to the point where there was no whites to the eyes, no pupils or irises, just two black holes. Black lines of unmagic spread beneath the skin like a second set of veins. The unmagic would eat at the mage until they were consumed by it, as happened with the Unmage of the Rokat murders, though his addiction to dragonsalt made his situation worse.
View of Others
Unmagic was considered a blight on “true magic,” and teachers were thankful when if students showed no sign of it. Since it was an absence more than anything, many believed one would have to be crazy to use it. When one has magic, one has life, but the nothingness of unmagic was the absence of life. It was the absence of hope and feeling and the more it was used the greater its hold on the mage became.
Weapons and people smeared or cloaked with unmagic could pass through magical protections unhampered as unmagic was the essence of nothingness and if there was nothing there, there was nothing for the magic to stop. Likewise there was nothing for normal magic to sense, allowing unmages to approach without warning. A large number of spells in one area would press against the unmage, making them tired and hot, but it was possible for them to keep moving forward.
The Unmage can cloak themselves or others in Unmagic, the essence of nothingness, which meant guards and protective spells could see and feel nothing because there was nothing there. There is only a tiny slit for one to see out of. If the eyeslit is taken away, the captive will be completely trapped in emptiness, a good torture method.
However, invisibility did not equal intangibility. If one could guess where the cloaked unmage was they could attack that spot. If the unmage was there, the hit would connect. Large nets or heavy crowds were a good way to find them as they would inevitably bump into something or someone.
It can be used as a way to collapse distances and walk between places if it can be bared. One man jumped all the way from Lightsbridge to Nidra through unmagic and spent a year laying in a fever, raving. Later he wrote that his senses all went dead; he was trapped inside his own mind. The unmagic portal looked similar to a pool, and an unmage or those severely contaminated would simply melt into its shadowy depths.